Parents dumping kids at toy stores

We've all heard of kids being left in the car while their parents have a drink at the pub or a flutter at the casino.

Now toy stores and recreation centres report their premises are being used by errant parents to dump their children.

David Whittle, who owns two Toyworld branches in Auckland, said children as young as two had been left to fend for themselves in his stores.

"We had one left in here the other day while the parent buggered off in the car. The problem is becoming more and more apparent."

Whittle said there were about six or seven such cases a month. "Over the past couple of years we have, I'm sure, saved a couple of kids from running out into the middle of the road. It really pisses us off. We are not a daycare."

Whittle said staff would confront parents or, in some cases, call police.

Pools and recreation centres are having similar problems.

New Zealand Recreation Association aquatics project manager Alison Law said some pools, including most in Auckland, now required children up to 10 years to be actively supervised, as opposed to the national policy of eight years.

She said pools frequently dealt with children being dropped off to be "supervised" by lifeguards, or being left to fend for themselves while their parents went swimming.

"Things can happen so quickly. Lifeguards are there to try and prevent things but they are there to watch everyone, they can't keep all their attention on one child."

Meanwhile, the number of cases of children being left alone in cars or houses continues to rise.

It is against the law to leave children under 14 on their own without taking reasonable steps for their care and supervision. Fines of up to $2000 can be imposed, and Child Youth and Family is likely to become involved in more serious cases.

Last month five children under eight were found crying in their parents' car in the basement car park of SkyCity Casino.

Last week a 12-year-old boy was found home alone in Tauranga when police raided his home, a suspected P-lab.

In January, a seven-year-old child was left home alone in Ashburton while his parents and other family members went fruit picking.

Last weekend a 23-month-old girl was left in a car outside the Kuripuni Tavern in Masterton while her father went inside to drink with a friend.

Linda Verity, owner of Toyworld Dunedin, said she had been strict on parents who dumped their children. "There was a classic example when one day a little boy was here for about an hour-and-a-half and when asked where mum was, she was getting her hair done. He might have been five or six.

"Once I have explained it was not on, it has all but stopped."

Rochelle Gribble, editor of kiwifamilies.co.nz, said leaving children in shops was risky.

"Kids wander and you never know what might entice them out of the shop and down the road."

Sunday Star Times